Monday, June 26, 2017

Trump's Economic Plan: Hydraulic Mining

These past few weeks, I've been talking about this trip through gold country that my wife and I took at the beginning of May. It was an enlightening and educational trip aside from the fact that it was just a lot of fun. I mean, I didn't even talk about how we made sourdough pancakes roughly based on the way miners' would have eaten them (evidently pancakes were kind of a thing because sourdough was fairly portable) or any of the other food we made (all amazing!) or any of the places we ate at. Of course, I also didn't talk about the mosquitoes, which reached a horrible peak the night we stayed at Indian Grinding Rock.

And I'm still not going to talk about any of that stuff:
1. Because I don't want to talk about the mosquitoes.
2. I don't have pictures of any of the food, and I probably wouldn't remember all the things anyway.

But I do want to talk some more about hydraulic mining and how Trump wants us to return to those days.

I mentioned that we stayed a couple of nights in a miners' cabin in North Bloomfield. North Bloomfield which now has a population of 8-12 (yes, that's actually what the sign said). However, at one point, North Bloomfield had a population of something in the 2000 range and was a "thriving" mining town. I say "thriving" because, obviously, it was only thriving via illusion. So let's talk about that...

The town of North Bloomfield was settled as a mining town, which means all of the industry there revolved around gold mining. Gold mining for "the Man." Let's just be clear about this, this was not a town settled by "small business" miners working for themselves and making a living at it. This was a town run by the North Bloomfield Mining and Gravel Company. The miners worked for them, and the miners made shit wages. The miners made shit wages while the owners of the mining company got rich. Super rich.

And remember, this is what the area looks like more than a century later:
Of course, at the time, none of the trees in the foreground were there. Everything below the treeline in  the background was wiped out by the hydraulic mining. Remember, this is a picture I took to be "attractive;" I didn't take any of what's left down in the canyon where it's still full of scummy water and piled rocks. Most of this area will never fully recover. [How do I know? Because there are similar areas to this where the Romans did the same kind of thing to gold mine more than 2000 years ago, and that land still hasn't recovered, either.]

But jobs, right? The destruction of this land supported the jobs and livelihood of 2000 people. But, you know, the government got involved and made hydraulic mining illegal and, so, today, North Bloomfield has a population of 8-12.

By Trump logic, though, we should strike down that regulation against hydraulic mining and put those miners back to work! Put them back to work making their shit wages so that the Mining Corporation could continue to get fat and rich (like a tick) off of them. But, you know, jobs!

Now, let's look at why the state of California stepped in and shut down hydraulic mining, because it wasn't because they wanted to flex some government muscles and put people out of work.
A view across some of the gravel piles and sparse vegetation on the edge of the "pit."

All of this hydraulic mining was happening up in the mountains, and it used a lot of water. "A lot of water" is an understatement. I'm talking about millions of gallons of water a day. All of the water and everything it carried with it went... down. Whole towns got covered in mud and rock and there was devastating flooding in the Sacramento valley, the most fertile area of California and, possibly, the whole United States, considering how much of the nation's food is grown here. Farms and lives were destroyed. Food that was being grown for broader consumption was destroyed so that a few corporation owners could get rich. And, you know, pay shit wages to their employees.

Some of what was coming out of the mountains even made it out into San Francisco Bay, causing even more environmental damage.

So, sure, there were 2000 people in this one town benefiting from the mining and a lot of those people had jobs related to the mining. And there were some other nearby towns that had jobs dependent upon the mining, like Lake City, which existed to upkeep one of the water reservoirs they used to power the water cannons.

But the environmental damage was extensive, to say the least, and the lives affected by the damage they mining corporation was causing was way more than 2000. Seriously, did you get the part where there were whole towns buried in mud due to the runoff from the mine? And entire seasons of crops were lost due to the flooding. So, yes, the State of California stepped in and made hydraulic mining illegal, but it wasn't without a legal fight because the corporation owners didn't want to quit. They didn't care about the damage they were causing because they were getting rich. Richer. They were getting more rich.

When hydraulic mining was made illegal, people moved away from North Bloomfield. Lake City doesn't even exist anymore. Yes, jobs were lost. Those people, though, went on to other things, because that's what you do. So, sure, jobs were lost, and I'm sure that was horrible for those people, especially the shop owners who suddenly no longer had enough business to stay open. But the net effect was tremendously for the good. Incalculably for the good.

Let's not mince words:
Trump's plan for coal, for bringing back coal mining jobs, is the same as if he came to California and made hydraulic mining legal again. There's still gold in them there hills. Billions of dollars worth. It wasn't a lack of gold that made people stop mining. It was the environmental cost.

And the environmental cost of coal is just as high. Climate change is real. The flooding and the droughts and the effects on our ability to produce crops is just as real as the flood waters and debris coming out of the Sierra Nevadas to cover the Sacramento plain and destroy... everything.

The best part is this:
He doesn't care about the jobs. He wants to pay shit wages, too. He's one of the corporation ticks wanting to suck you dry while he gets rich. And I hear you, "But Trump doesn't own coal mines!" (Actually, we don't know that since, you know, he won't release his tax returns.) Sure, Trump doesn't own any coal mines, but his buddies do, and, with them, it's all about scratching each others' backs.

Do I feel bad for the people who will and are losing their jobs because of the dying coal industry? Sure, I do. But I also believe the cost is too high to support the metaphoric 2000 jobs of a few miners at the expense of the rest of the world, because, yes, it is the rest of the world. For the moment, though, why don't you go to south Louisiana and talk to the folks there who are losing their coastline due to climate change. People who are having to move due to the destruction that other people are causing so that a few (a few!) can get rich. Richer. So that a few can get even more rich.
The monster in the mountain. (Doesn't it look like a Pac-Man ghost?)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Clone Wars -- Season Five


Season five of Clone Wars is almost the perfect Clone Wars season. Almost. If not for that pothole... um, actually, I think it's more of a sinkhole... right in the middle, it would be. Yes, I'm talking about the horrible four-episode arc featuring D-Squad and Colonel Gascon, the "frog general." As I'm reflecting over this particular season, I'm just left wondering, "What the f#$% were they thinking?"

I mean, look, season five starts off with a very solid story introducing us to Saw Gerrera, an arc which has a much stronger significance, now, after Rogue One, than it did when the series originally aired. It was a new perspective to go back and see it again because, though I liked the arc a lot the first time I saw it, it was much more enlightening this time.

And we follow that one with a story about younglings learning to build their first lightsabers, another good arc. True, it stumbles a bit at places, but, overall, it's good, and it gives us Ahsoka in her first guidance role.

Oh, but then! Then! I mean, where did this whole Gascon thing come from anyway? The story has absolutely no significance in the fabric of the series as a whole. It's entirely throwaway.

Then we have two of the strongest and most important arcs in the entire series. We wrap up the whole Darth Maul/Savage Opress story line, proving that the story of Opress was a tragedy (definitely not a comedy), but how could it have been otherwise? And...

And we see Ahsoka leave the Jedi. That final story of season five might be the most important of the entire Clone Wars run, though there is one arc in season six that's pretty important, too (and one that the Squid is sure to love), but I'll have to watch it again before I can decide which one I think is more significant.

Really, season five is Ahsoka's season. Three of the five arcs deal specifically with her, her growth as a Jedi, and her relationship with the Jedi Order and, specifically, to the Jedi Council. We watch her on more than one occasion choose to not follow orders in favor of doing what she believes is the right thing, something she learned from both Anakin and Obi-Wan but, possibly, more so from Obi-Wan. The season shows us that Ahsoka's story is also a tragedy.

I'm not sure I can say that you can watch season five without having watched the earlier seasons. Certainly, the Maul/Opress story arc won't make much since without the background from seasons three and four, but I think Ahsoka's ending won't have the power it should without having seen her journey. So, you know, if you like Star Wars, you really should watch The Clone Wars.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Clone Wars -- "The Wrong Jedi" (Ep. 5.20)

-- Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem.


[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season five, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]


And so we get to the end of the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired titles. "The Wrong Jedi," of course, comes from The Wrong Man and has roughly the same kind of plot. I say that as someone who doesn't really remember the movie very well since I probably saw it when I was 10, but the synopsis backs that up.

If you've been keeping up, you'll know that Ahsoka has been accused of a crime she didn't commit. And set up very solidly. And no one other than Anakin believes in her. It's the kind of thing that can really shake your faith, and her allegiance to the Jedi Order is a faith.

One of the underlying conflicts of this arc is jurisdiction. It was the Jedi Temple that was bombed, so they believe they should have jurisdiction over the case; but clones were killed, so Tarkin claims that the military has jurisdiction. The result of the conflict over that is interesting, to say the least, but to say more would be to spoil the episode for you, and, really, this is an arc that really needs to be seen. Probably more than any other single event in the series, this is the one where we can best see Anakin losing his grip on what it means to be a Jedi.

But, really, it's not about Anakin, as Ahsoka very pointedly tells him: "This isn't about you."

Really, this arc is pivotal to the whole Star Wars series. Not only does it reveal to us this critical moment for Anakin, but it really puts on display how it is that only a couple or few decades later that people have forgotten the Jedi. It's not so much that they don't remember but that they turned their backs on them.

Hmm... The people turned away from the Jedi in favor of the Emperor and the Dark Side... That's something that sounds rather familiar.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Writing and the Inspiration Dilemma

There are whole schools of thought about writers and inspiration and waiting for inspiration and when to write and where inspiration comes from and whether it's even necessary. As with most things, there's a spectrum here, with people who believe you should never sit down to write unless you're feeling inspired on one side, and those, on the other side, who believe you should treat writing like a job and sit down and do the work whether you're inspired or not.

Let's take a practical look at this.

But before we go on, let me just say that I have nothing against inspiration. I like it. It's great to be inspired and have lovely (or terrifying) ideas to sit down and play with. But I can almost never sit down to do the writing when I have those ideas. I think most of my ideas these days happen when I'm in the car. You can ask my wife; I make her send me notes when I have ideas and we're not home, so she would probably know best whether that most frequently happens in the car or not. I mean, the car is not the best place to write, not if you want to live through your trip.

I used to know this guy. A "writer." He strongly believed in the waiting-for-inspiration-to-strike-before-doing-any-writing model. He talked about it a lot, actually, about how he would lean back in his chair at his desk and wait for the inspiration to come to him. Wait for the universe to open and flood his head with ideas and words. He'd sit that way for hours. If no inspiration came, he didn't do any writing. As time went on, more and more often, his posts about his writing life were only about how he was never inspired and couldn't find any inspiration and was, as a consequence, never writing.

He's not a writer anymore. I'm not sure he could ever have been called a "writer" since he has no completed work to show for his time as a "writer."

The problem is that I know a lot of people like that, people who quit writing because they relied heavily on being inspired and never did any of the work of writing. It's like this:
Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
And, well, inspiration doesn't come unless you're doing the work.

So you can probably guess which side of the spectrum I'm on.
The truth is that if you look at successful writers, the writers who make a living from their writing, with few exceptions, these are the people who sit down to do the work of writing whether they're "feeling inspired" or not.

"Writers" who wait for the inspiration to happen first lead lives of not writing and, thus, never have anything to show for being a "writer." Sure, they may have a few pages of this or a few pages of that, but you can't legitimately call yourself a writer if you can't finish anything. You can be a writer without ever publishing anything, but you can't be a writer without work to show for it.

Which brings me to my actual point.

The other day, I heard a bit of an interview with a "voter" about why he hadn't voted in an election. He said it was because none of the candidates had inspired him...
Wait, what?
Yes, he said he didn't vote because he hadn't felt inspired by any of the candidates to get out and vote.

Which I realized is what has bothered me so much about last November's presidential election, people complaining that they didn't like either candidate so they hadn't bothered to vote at all. These people are "voters" in much the same way as a writer waiting for inspiration is a writer, which is to say not at all.

Look, it's not a candidates job to be inspirational. It's not the campaign's job to inspire you. Sure, I get that it can help. Like I said, I have nothing against inspiration. It's great.
But that's not what voting is about!
As a voter, it's your job to make the best decision from the available candidates and to go out and vote!

For example, if you have two candidates and you've rated them on a scale of 1-10 and one of them is a 0 (because Trump didn't even make the scale) and the other is a 2 or, even, a 1, you go out and vote for the better one (not that I thought that Clinton was so low as a 1 or a 2, but I know a lot of people felt that way). You don't wait for a 7 or higher to come along and inspire you before going out and doing your job, because it is your job. If you have two candidates whom you don't like and one of them is an authoritarian fascist asshole, you go out and cost your ballot for the other candidate.

Period.

You want to know how I know? Because France just did just that! FRANCE! Dudes... if France can do it, if France can do the right thing, certainly we here in the United States of goddamn fucking America ought to be able to do the same thing. Ought to be able to.
Because, obviously, we're not capable of that, as the even more recent election of Greg Gianforte kind of demonstrates.
Seriously, what the fuck?
And you call yourselves Americans?
If the people of France can get themselves out to vote for Emmanuel Macron, a guy no one really liked, for the sole purpose of keeping Marine Le Pen out of office, then no one in the United States has any excuse.

When the choice is between the lesser of two evils, you fucking vote for the lesser of two evils.

So all of you people who didn't vote need to own up to your lack of doing your fucking jobs as citizens of the United States and get up off your asses now and register your protest against the fascist asshole "running" the country.
Running it into the ground.

Sorry (not sorry), fuck inspiration. And that goes to you "writers," too.
Do the work.
If you do the work, the inspiration will eventually come.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gold Country (part 4)

This is the stream where we panned for gold. I think we lasted about 10 minutes.
Really, I was just more interested in taking pictures.
I did find some pretty non-gold rocks, though, not that I kept any of them.

The path through China Garden.